The original Lotus Esprit from the 1977 James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me" went up for auction in London today...

007's Lotus Esprit Auctioned
1st December 2008

The white 1976 Lotus Esprit from the 1977 James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me", starring Roger Moore and Barbara Bach, was sold by the international auctioneers Bonhams on Monday 1st December at its annual motoring Auction Sale at Olympia, in West London. The vehicle is one of two Lotus cars driven in the film by 007. It turns into an amphibious car for the movie, driven both on land and underwater. The Esprit comes complete with a surface-to-air-missile button on the gearstick.

When the hammer finally fell, the car sold for £111,500 ($65,936 dollars). Bonhams confirmed the car was bought by a private US collector who was bidding by telephone. The Lotus Esprit had been expected to fetch as much as £120,000 by the auction house. The winning bidder wished to remain anonymous, but described himself as a collector from Atlanta, and "a Lotus and James Bond aficionado." A Bonhams spokesman said: "We are delighted with the result and delighted that it attracted worldwide attention."

Bond drives the car toward the ocean in Sardinia in the film - it is the car in which Q instructs Bond about its various functions. After the 1977 movie was completed, the current car was returned to the Lotus factory, where it was turned back into a production-line model and eventually found its way to Germany. Last year, the Esprit’s European owner commissioned the original trimmer Nick Fulcher to have the “Q specification” Bond interior recreated by Lotus.

According to the director of engineering at Lotus Cars, Roger Becker, who drove it during the car chases in the The Spy Who Loved Me, this is the only one of the two fully functioning Esprits to be fitted with the missile launch button on the gear lever and the revised housing for the clock/periscope screen. Using a sister car, models and seven Lotus body shells, the director shows the Esprit growing fins and becoming a submarine. Bonhams sold the car’s sister in 1998 for a hammer price of 34,000 pounds, before fees.

Also at the auction, another Bond-related item was the number plate AU1, the registration borne by arch-villain Auric Goldfinger's Rolls-Royce Phantom III in the classic 1964 adventure starring Sean Connery. AU1 was issued in Nottingham in 1903 and remained in the original holder's family until the mid-1990s. Offered with a V778 retention certificate, the registration was estimated at £80,000 to £100,000 - but no bidders managed to reach the reserve price.

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